I went from a 95 avalon with a slipping tranny to this car and I love it! I bought it off the previous owner for 1300 with about 163000 miles. The only issue I have had was replacing the radiator which is known to crack in these cars.It was fairly cheap for me since my boyfriend is a mechanic, about $160. Other than that its just the little things that do not mechanically affect the car, which for 1300 is a steal! Gas wise its great only spending like 25 dollars to fill up every week and a half to 2 weeks. Its very comfortable and a great get around car. I feel comfortable doing my occasional 6 hour roads trips every now and then. It really picks up some speed. Overall its a great car. No car is ever perfect there will always be something wrong with any car. For people mad about the radiator which is a common issue its good to look into a car before you buy and see what recalls and common issues there are.
Honestly, I read the posts about how great this car is and I'm surprised. The car has given me issues since I bought it. Being a naive buyer, I got my car off craigslist. I got it at around 92k miles and I feel like everything has broken and need replaced. The oil pans keep leaking. The heater core broke and cost 3k to replace. Engine mounts broke. The list goes on. I owned this car through college and that is as far as it will go. I think it would be better if I didn't buy it off craigslist.
I bought the '04 SE base new as a "leftover" in 2005 for $11,200. Although i had good credit the dealer told me it wasn't good enough (720) and charged me 2 extra points at the very end of the deal. I had already sold my old car so i needed it. After i figured how much money they screwed me for i vowed never to visit the dealer again. Guess what? I didn't have to! Now it is July 2016 and the Neon has 209K miles on it and has only broken down once. The nylon clip that holds the shifter to the cable under the boot fell off or broke. The repair was $125 total including $65 for towing. I have kept up with all the maintenance (timing belts, fluid changes, strut changes,etc.) and i would take the car on a 5,000 mile round trip tomorrow if i needed to. I am 6 foot 4 tall and age 56. The car is comfortable to drive and sit in for long drives. I love the manual transmission as i consider myself a spirited driver and 2nd and 3rd gear pull really good although i don't have a tachometer. Although i live in the south i have driven in deep snow in NH and good quality tires help. The only recommendation i can make is to change the coolant every 2 years vs. 5. I think i replaced an o2 sensor and a knock sensor in 2012. The a/c works great although summer mpg's are about 25 and winter is 30 or 32. Book value now is about $1000 but i couldn't buy one this well maintained for the price. I will say if mine gets totaled for any reason i would probably buy another one. New car prices are ridiculous and i don't ever want to finance a car again. I will keep it until the wheels fall off. Even if the motor blows i might just buy another motor. I still see a few 1st generation Neon's driving around; how many miles are on them?
I bought this car used back in 2008, with about 33k miles on it. Now it is 2016 and only at 119k. Was mostly for college and getting to all my jobs during that time. Now I am out of college, with a good paying job, and I could buy a new or used car that is up to date and shiny, but the Neon is still going. I have never had to repair a single thing motor/engine wise except for the timing belt (obvious maintenance) which I made sure to do around 90k or a little earlier (not sure exactly when). My car has even been hit by drunk drivers and many idiots and yet still holds strong after body repair.
The only issues I have had was the sunroof and leaking. It went off the track and broke. Instead of getting it fixed, I just had a body shop place the roof back in and remove the fuse that allowed it to open and close. It leaks around the sunroof, and weirdly around the passenger side area where the feet go. I think its just blocked up and moves into the floor.
Besides its lack of physical beauty at this age in the game, it has done me very well and I will drive this car until the wheels fall off. :}